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DIY Chimney Repair: What You Can Do And What's Better Left To Professionals

If you're like many modern homeowners, you try to do at least some of the maintenance work on your home yourself — and if you're comfortable with basic home repairs, some chimney maintenance tasks might be well within your wheelhouse. However, you should be honest about your limitations. Structural repairs and changes to your chimney should be left to professionals. You don't want to bite off more than you can chew because errors can lead to dangerous situations like fires or carbon monoxide leaks. Here's what you need to know about when DIY chimney repairs might make sense and when they're better left to the professionals.

The Doable: Cleaning and Basic Maintenance

One of the most common DIY chimney tasks is cleaning out the soot and creosote, a flammable byproduct of burning wood. The build-up of creosote can lead to chimney fires, so it's important to clean your chimney at least once a year. Special chimney brushes can be purchased for this purpose, and while wearing goggles and a dust mask, you can scrub the interior surface of your chimney.

Likewise, inspect the chimney cap, which is the covering on the top of the chimney that keeps out rain, birds, and other critters. If it's damaged, you can replace it yourself. Similarly, you can reseal the chimney crown, the top concrete area of your chimney, using a sealant specifically designed for the task.

Tread Lightly: Minor Repairs

You might encounter loose or missing bricks, small cracks, and mortar gaps when inspecting your chimney. If the damaged area is small and accessible, you could consider repointing the chimney. Repointing involves removing the old, damaged mortar and replacing it with new mortar. But tread lightly; mistakes can lead to water leaks and structural problems.

Call the Pros: Structural Repairs and Safety Checks

When you encounter major issues like leaning chimneys, severe cracks in the flue, or damaged firebricks inside the fireplace, it's time to call the professionals. These are not simple fixes and typically require specialized equipment and expertise. The risk isn't just about getting the job done right; it's also about ensuring that your chimney operates safely.

Professionals also conduct thorough inspections and can tell you if your chimney is safe for use. They can perform a smoke test to check for any obstructions or leaks in the flue liner, a crucial component that protects your home from heat and gases. If your liner is damaged, this is not a DIY project — this scenario requires professional repair or replacement.

To learn more, contact a company like Lifetime Chimney.